ONE hundred days from now, everything changes.
Instead of sitting in an office, working my way through things which have become routine over the years and plotting out a working week that will follow familiar patterns, only the unknown will be lying in wait.
Rather than heading home from work to an instantly recognisable world – TV, wi-fi, my own bed, food bought in the same old places – it will all be brand new.
Home will be replaced by Africa. Africa will become home for the next 10 months, not knowing exactly where the next bed or, at times, even meal will be. All in the company of a group of people who have never met (well, most of them).
One hundred days from today, we’ll be boarding a plane to Gibraltar and our first stop in Europe, but that’s only a brief flirtation with the familiar before crossing into Morocco and taking the plunge into the whole new world.
And how is it as the countdown reaches this landmark?
A bit weird to be honest, living in a sort of limbo. Not only is the long list of things to do still expanding before real dents are made in it – the first small indents on a pre-US trip week off, more items crossed off as the countdown continues towards finishing work and, finally, the last, frantic race through the rest of the list in the final two weeks – but normal life has been skewed slightly.
If things were normal, there would be several everyday items in my life which needed replacing – my bed, a new pair of work shoes, both work trousers and a pair of shorts where change doesn’t fall straight through the pockets – but it is all having to wait, playing second fiddle on the shopping list to stuff which will make the cut to go in the rucksack (also on the list), not sit in storage for 10 months.
There’s the odd exception to all this. That trip to the US is to a wedding, so one or two smarter purchases are necessary. If you spot me wearing the same stuff over and over again – well, more than normal – between returning to work and heading off again, it’s making sure it gets used before being packed up to sit somewhere, not sure exactly where yet, for the best part of the year. And because a lot of stuff is about to fall victim to a pretty brutal clothing cull.
It is those matters – such as what to do with the few items of furniture in my flat that aren’t taking a fast track to the tip and the ultimate fate of my car – which are the most difficult to sort.
What makes it in to that rucksack (as little as possible) and a lot of the preparations for the trip itself are fairly straightforward. There’s visas to be got (thankfully only two before the off) and jabs to be had.
But the visas are, once you have got your head around the process, generally fairly routine and a case of following instructions (although this is Africa, so those words could come back to haunt me).
And the vaccinations – and malaria – have been put very much in the hands of a travel clinic, once my doctor’s surgery took one look at the list of countries on the itinerary and suggested this was one for the experts. So, the appointment is booked for a consultation and those experts can work out exactly which combination of needles they want to stick in me.
That appointment is recorded, as those of you paying attention to previous posts will recall, on the to-do list.
Well, pretty sure it is, The sacred master to-do list (which often doesn’t get finished on a daily basis due to the amount of time keeping it updated) was on the screen when my laptop decided to throw a wobbly and delete it.
After exhausting my extensive IT knowledge – turning it off and back on again, once it was established that was not going to delete anything else – what had been on the rest of that evening’s to-do list was replaced by the simple job of rewriting it from the last time it was backed up. Only a couple of weeks, but long enough to make it quite a task remembering exactly what was on it and when.
Somehow, washing the bathroom floor did stick in my head and made it onto the new list – not surprising, given how often it has been pushed back – but heading to the doctors for a blood test did not. At least until 20 minutes before the appointment, on the way out of the door to go to work.
Thankfully, the newly-updated Africa and Kit lists were not hit by the glitch, but like all of them, they are now subject to a new system of e-mailing to myself once a week.
And you wondered why I need to get away from all this.